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Mei Harrison, Audrey Harris, Lukas Lopez-Jensen

World Religions - Blue 4

Russian Orthodox Church Topic Questions
1. What is “religion?” How is it different/similar to philosophy, ideology, cults, or
The Russian Orthodox Church is a sub-section religion of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, religion is defined as, “the feelings, acts, and experiences of
individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to
whatever they may consider the divine.” Many of the widely accepted religions of the world are
considered to be religions within the Russian Orthodox Church. Religion is similar to philosophy
but pertains more to the comprehension of the religion and how it should be taken. The
philosophy of the religion comes under the understanding that​ certain sections of Scripture,
while containing moral lessons and complex truth, do not necessarily have to be interpreted
literally. The Orthodox also understand that a particular passage may be interpreted on many
different levels simultaneously. Eastern Orthodox dismiss the problems of ​philosophical
theology​ as peculiar to the Christian West. The Russian Church also sought to fill the ideological
vacuum left by the ​collapse of Communism​ and even, in the opinion of some analysts, became
"a separate branch of power". In regards to superstition, in Russian history, it was common to
believe that strangers and people of other religions were viewed as possessing the unclean
forceGo here for various Russian superstitions​ .
2. What is “divinity?” Is there a God or gods?
Yes, the Russian Orthodox Church is monotheistic and thus believes in a God. Orthodox
Christians ​believe​ in a single God who is both three and one (triune); the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, "one in essence and undivided". The Holy Trinity is three "unconfused" and distinct divine
persons (hypostases), who share one divine essence (ousia); uncreated, immaterial and
eternal. ​Like Catholics, they do worship the saints but they do not believe in the holiness of the
Pope and his rule. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses a creed → “It was the definition of the
council which the Emperor Constantine called in the city of Nicea in the year 325 which was
ultimately accepted by the Orthodox Church as the proper Symbol of Faith. This council is now
called the first ecumenical council, and this is what it said:
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things
visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten,
begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not
made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men
and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and
the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and
suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come
again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.”

3. Is there an explanation of “Creation” or of the universe? What is the relationship

with “science?”
Orthodox Christians confess God as Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1, the
Nicene Creed). Creation did not just come into existence by itself. God made it all. "By faith we
understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God..." (Hebrews 11:3). Orthodox
Christians do not believe the Bible to be a science textbook on creation, as some mistakenly
maintain, but rather to be God's revelation of Himself and His salvation. Also, we do not view
science textbooks, helpful though they may be, as God's revelation. The may contain both
known facts and speculative theory, but they are not infallible. Orthodox Christians refuse to
build an unnecessary and artificial wall between science and the Christian faith. Rather, they
understand honest scientific investigation as a potential encouragement to faith, for all truth is
from God.
4. What is the purpose of life?
There is only one true and correct answer and it is fairly similar to “"To glorify God". or
“To be saved". Beyond this, the purpose of life is to to know God, and how it is fulfilled, by
exercising and strengthening our God given free will to become like God, so that our soul is able
to understand His revelation of Himself to our human heart. This is extended into knowing God
through acting like him. In order to act like him, humans are intended to perform the virtues of
love, kindness, and all the rest.
5. What is “man?” How is this determined?
God created man, man being both males and females of the world. Because both came
directly from God, they are both ​equal bearers of the divine im​age and human dignity, man and
woman are created to be completely united in love (condemnment of gay marriage). The sexual
distinctions are not limited to the difference in constitution. Man and woman are two different
modes of existence in one humanity. They need communication and complementation.
However, in the fallen world, relationships between the sexes can be perverted, ceasing to be
an expression of God-given love and degenerating into the sinful passion of the fallen man for
his ego.

6. Does man have a purpose? If so, what is man’s purpose? Is there a purpose to the
○ What is the meaning life? There is only one meaning of life: God became man,
so man might become God. Let me explain. God created humankind (Adam and
Eve) and all of creation. God desired a real union with humankind, however He
also created humans with free-choice. As people we can do whatever we want.
We can move towards God or away. We can do good or do evil. No matter what,
God will not take this gift away from us. Adam and Eve were given the choice of
union with God, however they fell and did not achieve this union. Due to this
weakened state mankind could not achieve union with God on its own. God
wishing to save and empower the human race became man (Jesus Christ).
Christ is not a man who became God, or a man who was united with God, or God
pretending to be a man. No, God became a man in fullness and truth whilst
remaining God. How this happened is a mystery. In becoming man Christ offered
Himself as a sacrifice to His Father for all of mankind and resurrected after His
death. In this way humankind was given power and strength over death.
○ While it is true that God become man, Christ was an individual and grew, lived
and interacted with other people, God also adopted all of humanity into Himself.
All of humanity has our humanity in common with one another. When God
became man, He saved everyone in a sense, since humanity was united with
God. It is our goal to unite with God, not morally or philosophically, but in a real
way that allows us to be changed and transformed by God's divinity. When I say
that man must become God, I do not mean in the sense that man attains the
divine nature or that man becomes God in and of His own unique essence. But I
mean in the sense that God's energies are united to man, and he is changed and
transformed by God, whilst remaining a unique individual and person. This is
what it means to be "saved" by God and to attain the Kingdom of Heaven.
○ We are given one life to sort this out. Because we have bodies that subject to
growth, change and death, we can move towards God in this lifetime and attain
union with Him. This is the only purpose of life. Moral improvement, going to
church, praying, etc are all conducive to this goal, but they are not the goal in and
of itself. Everything we do as Orthodox Christians is to attain union with Christ
our God.
7. Is man inherently good, bad, neither, or both?
○ God = good
○ God creates man
○ Man is one with god
○ Man = good
8. Does man have “free will?” What is the concept of “predetermination?”
○ “This is why we were made in the image and likeness of God. In order for God to
share of Himself with us, we must have the capacity to understand Him. He is a
totally free and immortal being. We were also created to be immortal (once the
human soul comes into life, it will never die, or cease to exist), and we also were
created with free will, since God is free.
Free will, properly used, makes a man full of holiness, peace, the knowledge of
God, and able to always freely choose good.”
● God desired a real union with humankind, however He also created humans with
free-choice. As people we can do whatever we want. We can move towards God
or away. We can do good or do evil. No matter what, God will not take this gift
away from us. Adam and Eve were given the choice of union with God, however
they fell and did not achieve this union.
9. Does man, or other living things, have a soul or spirit?
○ Man/humans are believed to have a soul which will leave the body after death.
After death one’s soul will find itself among other souls and spirits that are both
good and bad. An individual’s spirit is typically drawn to other spirits with similar
characteristics. If a soul or spirit was greatly influenced by another during its time
in the body, the soul will remain dependent upon them when it leaves the body.
10. Is there an “afterlife?” How are “life” and ”death” defined? When do they begin/end?
What is their importance?
○ New birth/rebirth is the receipt of new life. New birth is how people enter God’s
kingdom and the church. It is believed that "Unless one is born of water and the
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). New birth/being reborn
refers to process of being Baptised and rising with Jesus Christ. “The new birth
occurs in baptism where we die with Christ, are buried with Him, and are raised
with Him in the newness of His resurrection, being joined into union with Him in
His glorified humanity” (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3, 4).
○ Heaven is believed to be a place of God beyond space and time. It is believed
that Christians may live on this earth, but they belong to the kingdom of heaven,
and that it is their true home. Russian Orthodox preaches that one can only reach
the God’s Kingdom through rebirth/baptism.
○ Those who follow Russian Orthodox believe that hell, however unpopular it may
be to modern people, is real.The church sees hell as a place of eternal torment
meant for those who willfully reject God. After death there is a day of judgement
and that people who reject the grace and mercy of god must suffer the
consequences of their actions.
○ Death is seen as the gateway to an eternal life. It is believed that the body of a
deceased Christian must be returned to the earth. Cremation is forbidden. The
body must be placed in a casket and put in the ground and marked by a grave
marker with the image of the cross.

11. Are all people equal or is there a concept of a “chosen” people and how is this defined?
How are “others” viewed? Is there social stratification and how is it determined and/or
The Russian Orthodox Church doesn't have any concept of a chosen people, in that nobody
enters the world preferred by God. However, conversion is influenced by a promise for
salvation, and claims to be the true church of Christianity: Catholicism, Protestantism, and even
some other forms of East Orthodox Christianity are inaccurate in their view. This also means
that all non-Christians are incorrect about any statements that contradict the church. So,
although there's no directly chosen people, believers and members of the church are
considered to have better afterlives than those who aren't.

12. What is the definition and role of the family, genders? Is there a rite of “passage?”
Russian Orthodox has very conservative views on love, marriage, etc. Using the Bible as a
reference, they claim that men and women were created for each other, in order to have sex
(but never before a sacred marriage, and never with the same sex.) Men and women are
claimed to be “two modes of existence in one humanity.” That said, premarital sex is still highly
taboo, and those who are exposed for having sex before marriage are condemned by the
church. Rites of passage will be more thoroughly discussed in the next section, but the
chrismation (again, later discussed) is the most notable right of passage.
13. Are there rituals, celebrations, rules, goals, physical/biological restrictions, taboos,
punishments, or rewards?
The ROC, like the rest of Eastern Orthodox churches, recognizes the 7 Sacraments held
by Catholicism: baptism, chrismation (confirmation to Catholics), Eucharist, confession,
ordination, marriage, and the anointing of the sick. Lots of these are greatly similar to their
Catholic counterparts, but some notable differences are put into play. Baptisms are done with
full immersion: people are put entirely into the water. The Eucharist is done exclusively with
leavened bread, claimed to be of a higher quality. Confessions aren’t held with a screen
between the priest and the person confessing: the priest faces the person, and puts his hands
on their head. Eastern Orthodox churches in general are meant to turn all of life into a
sacrament, (religious ritual) so many elements of life are infused with religion. People hire
priests to bless houses, voyages, and even vehicles, and funerals are highly religious.
Bibliography link:

14. What is regarded as “sacred” or “profane”? What is regarded as good or evil?

Several things are regarded by the ROC as sacred, most of which are taken from the Bible.
Obeying the preset conditions of the church, including participation in rituals, prayer, and
fasting, are all considered to please God and are sacred. Disobeying the church or sinning, by
way of blasphemy, homosexual actions, or violence is considered profane. Good and evil are
shown through the Bible and some resulting religious traditions, as well. These definitions line
up with those for sacred and profane; they are what is supported or opposed by the church, and
followers are encouraged to follow the good and reject the evil.

15. What is the origin of the religion? Who is the founder? What is its purpose? Is it a
“missionary” religion?
Christianity was first brought to Eastern Europe by Greek missionaries in the 9th century.
By 957, a historic baptism of Olga, the regent of Kiev, occurred in Constantinople, marking
Kiev’s acceptance of Christianity. In the 97 years following that event, the Roman Catholic and
Greek Orthodox churches would continuously separate, no longer agreeing on several matters
of political and theological importance. By 1054, the Greek Orthodox and all other Eastern
Orthodox churches were excommunicated by the Pope, marking the schism that would cause
these sects of Christianity to follow different histories. After 1054, as Orthodox churches spread
from modern day Greece to Southwest Russia, other small diversifications began to occur. The
Russian Orthodox Church was headed by metropolitans from Kiev until 1448, spending these
years not as their own sect, but simply following Kiev’s interpretation of Orthodox Christianity. At
this time, the Russian principality elected their own patriarch, Jonas, independent of
Constantinople’s (Constantinople’s patriarch is to Orthodox what Rome’s pope is to
Catholicism). ROC claims to have roughly the same purpose as Christianity as a whole: to
inform all people about their doctrines and bring them together under God. Russian Orthodox
Christianity is a missionary religion, actively seeking converts across the world, although their
main focus lies in Russia.

16. What are its history, geography, politics, and economics? What is its relationship with
To continue the history given in the previous section, the Russian patriarch was elevated to the
5th highest Orthodox rank in 1589. In the mid 1600s, the patriarch Nikon (who also reformed the
church to better model the other East Orthodox churches) attempted to infuse the ROC with
Russia’s government, with intense pushback from the tsar Alexis. Nikon didn’t achieve his
theocracy, but after his deposition in 1666, the church accepted his reforms, for the most part.
Those who didn’t were referred to as “old believers” from that point on and formed a schism
within the ROC for the coming centuries. Over time, the church saw some gradual changes,
becoming more controlled by the state as ideas such as Alexis’s were no longer favored. A
government representative would oversee the church’s actions beginning in 1721, and would
continue like this until the communist revolution of 1917. And now...
When the tsarist government collapsed, the church adapted to reestablish the patriarch and
work in line with other East Orthodox churches again, but then Communism took effect. All
church held property was nationalized, and could no longer be used for worship. All religions
were persecuted by the state, with churches being destroyed and clerics being executed.
Things just got worse in 1922, when the Soviet Union established a state friendly Renovated
Church, which took members from the ROC’s clergy to make the religious equivalent of a
puppet government, dividing the people from their clergy. When the preexisting patriarch Tikhon
died in 1925, the USSR prevented the church from electing a new patriarch, so a hopeful
candidate by the name of Sergius stopped criticizing the government and feigned support for it
in hopes of being given power. This further divided the church from its people, as Sergius lost
the support of Russians and observants of the religion abroad cut ties with Moscow. Things
were not good, until Stalin took power. (Never thought I’d say that.)
Joseph Stalin’s policies towards religion weren’t as restrictive as Lenin’s and Trotsky’s, and in
1943 the ROC came back. Churches and religious schools went back into business, a new
patriarch was elected, and the religion grew. Then, Stalin died. Under Khrushchev and
Brezhnev, the church’s persecution began once more, but Gorbachev threw that all out the
window in the 80s when he started his process of making the Soviet Union less Soviet-y. He
returned buildings and freedom to the church, and with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union,
the ROC was able to grow and reach the levels of freedom and popularity it sees today.

Geography: Although it’s mainly based in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church saw some
increased practice abroad when refugees fled the Russian Revolution in 1917. There are
Russian Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe and the United States, with an aptly named
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) based in New York City.

Politics: The Church was composed of members opposing Communism and the Soviet Union,
although many of its prominent members adapted to their ruling government in hopes that
they’d be able to freely practice. Today, the ROC stands to the right of the political spectrum,
being socially conservative on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

Economics: The ROC doesn’t have much from an economic standpoint, but it does encourage
donations to itself and to charity, like many other Christian faiths.
(Check out more history ​here​)

17. What are the arts, literature, music, food, entertainment, and education for the religion?
18. How has music, art, and literature reflected powerful ideas throughout history?
Music - ​Russian Liturgical Music​ is the musical tradition of the ROC. This tradition began
with the importation of the Byzantine Empire’s religious music when the Kievan Rus’ converted
to Orthodoxy in 988. This was the music played in churches and sung by choirs. In Russia,
choral music, liturgical chant, and folk music are intertwined into the Russian culture and has
diffused that way. ​
Art - In the early ROC, art often mimicked the Byzantine empire. As Russia lacked their
own religious art, they often became strongly influenced by religious paintings and engravings
from Protestant and Catholic Europe. Russian icons are typically small paintings on wood
though some in churches and monasteries may be much larger. Some Russian icons were
made of copper. Many religious homes in Russia have icons hanging on the wall in the ​krasny
ugol​, the "red" or "beautiful" corner.
Literature - The Bible is the holy doctrine of Christian faiths, and ROC is no exception.
Beyond the Bible, the ROC and EOC has a series of literature pieces. ​In an effort to improve the
work of the clergy and the religious understanding of the laity, Orthodox leaders in late
eighteenth-century Russia began to publish practical manuals on the practices of the church
and the path to living a Christian life and achieving salvation. Such works formed pathways from
higher theological discourse to the practical modes of pastoral work and lay instruction–to
promoting “enlightenment” in the day-to-day work of the church.
Reflection through history - ​Orthodox Christianity is Russia’s traditional and largest
religion, deemed a part of Russia’s "historical heritage" in the law passed in 1997. Each of these
cultural aspects has served a vital role in shaping Russia’s culture, history, and the track record
of the ROC.
19. How have philosophical and religious traditions affected the development of
political institutions?
Politically the Russian government, is split ​between the President and the Prime
Minister, but the President is the dominant figure. In regards to influences, the Russian
Orthodox Church was gaining increased influence over the federal government in the late
1990s. For example, the passage of a 1997 national law, restricting certain religious
organizations from carrying out missionary work in the Russian Federation, was considered a
political victory for the Orthodox Church, whose leadership lobbied the government heavily for
the legislation. The ROC was almost completely extinct after the communist rule of Russia but
today religion and the church play a vital role in the nation’s politics. The church supports
President Putin and his rule and often denounces opposers.
20. Which ideas provide the greatest insight to understanding a culture or nation’s history?
● It is believed by Orthodox Christians that God the Son could have been incarnate
whenever He so desired. However, He did not become incarnate until the Roman
Empire was near it's height. Why? Because The Roman Empire had an immense
trade and communications network throughout the world. Christianity could
spread quickly by means of this trade network, and indeed it did. However,
what's more the Greco-Roman society and culture was deeply religious and was
ripe for Christianity. This is but one example. Another example is the Communist
Revolution in Russia. While there was political rationale for this within 19th
century Russia, it was first and foremost an ideological revolution. The founders
of Communism in Russia were atheists and it was necessary to overthrow and
supplant the old way with the new way. It would be incorrect to assume that the
Communists were only concerned with economics or were merely dissatisfied
with the autocratic rule of the Royal Family in Russia. No, they were concerned
with creating a whole new Russian culture and ethos that was different than
before. Even though the Royal Family were no longer acting leaders of Russia,
their martyrdom was inevitable by the Communists to bring in the new order.
Naturally churches had to be shut down too. Because God was dead for the
Communists they had to make sure no signs were remaining as before.